Middle EastOperationsTankers

US warns merchant shipping of Iranian GPS spoofing threat

The US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration issued a warning yesterday suggesting Iran is engaged in interfering with ships’ GPS systems as they transit near the Middle Eastern nation.

The warning said merchant ships had reported “spoofed bridge-to-bridge communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be US or coalition warships.”

“Due to the heightened regional tensions, the potential for miscalculation or misidentification could lead to aggressive actions against vessels belonging to US, allied and coalition partners operating in the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) explained in an emailed statement, adding that a number of ships have reported communications jamming in recent weeks.

A US official told CNN that Iranian Navy and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels have spoofed merchant ship automatic identification systems to make themselves look like commercial shipping vessels.

The US believes Iran has GPS jammers operating on Abu Musa Island, an island in the Persian Gulf, aimed at getting international ships and aircraft to inadvertently wander into Iranian waters or airspace.

The American warning follows concerns raised by UK intelligence services over the past month that Iran may well have used Russian GPS spoofing technology to send the UK-flagged Stena Impero off course and into Iranian waters. The Stena Bulk product tanker and its 23 crew were seized on July 19 and remain detained in Iranian waters, as retaliation for UK armed forces detaining an Iranian VLCC off Gibraltar at the start of last month.


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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